Los Señores de los Milagros
A two-point lead by Mexico heading into the second half of their friendly competition versus Colombia evaporates in the final minutes of the game.
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There have been many games in sports history that have defied the odds; an underdog that finds victory within the clutches of defeat. From the NFL's "Miracle in the Meadowlands" to Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson's famous World Series home run, and "The Miracle on Ice" when the United States hockey team defeated the former Soviet Union's team at the 1980 Olympics.
We need to add another milagro to the list.
The friendly fútbol match between Colombia and Mexico in Santa Clara, CA had the signs of a great battle between two highly skilled adversaries — but you would have never known that from how Colombia played in the first half.
Within the first four minutes, the team's rising star Luis Diaz was trying to dribble out of his own box and Mexico's Uriel Antuna stepped in front of the ball. Diaz then shoved him from behind for an obvious penalty. Alexis Vega then stepped up to convert the penalty with a powerful shot.
Things went from bad to worse by the 29th minute when a pass went towards Vega, who plays the decoy, letting it run past him, freezing three Colombian defenders in their tracks, hitting left-back Gerardo Arteaga in stride for the 2-0 lead.
With the game now at intermission, Colombia needed a miracle — someone must have been listening.
Newly acquired Colombian coach Néstor Lorenzo needed to right the ship somehow. His idea: Substitute James Rodriguez for Luis Sinisterra, Radamel Falcao for Rafael Santos Borre, and Steven Alzate for Jorge Carrascal. The die-hard fans of Colombia must have thought this was just madness or that Colombia was conceding defeat.
In the 49th minute of the friendly, signs of life came from the Cafeteros. A Juan Cuadrado corner kick finds its way to Luis Sinisterra with a header that beats Mexico’s keeper Memo Ochoa. Now Colombia is only down by one.
Just three minutes later, lightning strikes twice when Carrascal makes a run down the right side of the box, cuts the ball back where Sinisterra sent the equalizer past Ochoa. The Colombian substitutes have changed the outlook of the game. Maybe coach Lorenzo's plan wasn't that bad after all.
El Tri were trying to find the right substitutions to stop the bleeding. The prior friendly victory and this match were supposed to be warmups to the upcoming World Cup in November. They were trying to build some momentum. They ran into a roadblock. With time running out, could Mexico get one more goal to take the lead? Will Colombia once again play for the proverbial draw?
Wilmer Barrios did not get that memo.
During the 68th minute, with a victory on the line, Barrios took an amazing volley from teammate Rafael Santos Borre and sent a golazo into the top right corner from outside the box past the outstretched arm of Ochoa. ¿Crees en milagros? Si!
Colombia fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take the lead with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game.
Mexico was trying desperately to get the tying goal with more substitutions, and settle for a friendly draw. The Colombian defense came back to life, stood their ground and wound down the clock. The extra three minutes felt like an eternity for the Cafeteros. In the 92nd minute, Vega with a last-second blast from distance barely missed the left post. A diving Ospina raised his head to see how close the lead almost disappeared.
With the sound of the three whistles from the officials, the game was over. The miracle was complete. A majority of dejected Mexican fans left the stadium in disgust while the Colombian National team gave each other hugs and pats on the back for a hard fought win. It has been a decade since Colombia last played against Mexico.
The lineups 10 years ago were slightly different, but the final results were the same — another victory for the Cafeteros. We take a look back to that game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida.
Mexico was undefeated in their last seven games prior to the start of a World Cup and this is their first defeat since 1994. This was not the way for El Tri to begin their quest for the Cup. As for Colombia, they did not let a two goal deficit take their confidence away. The team showed grit, heart and a no-quit attitude. Hopefully, they can use this momentum to their advantage in the long road towards the 2026 World Cup.
Maybe a prayer or two wouldn't hurt either.